KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Premium Standard Farms, the nation's second-largest hog producer, will pay a $350,000 civil penalty and spend millions on cleaner wastewater treatment at its Missouri farms under a settlement announced Tuesday.
The agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Citizens Legal Environmental Action Network, or CLEAN, settles all environmental claims brought by those groups against Premium Standard, including claims that it violated the Clean Water Act for allegedly discharging pollutants into rivers and streams.
Mary Still, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Attorney General's Office, said the state did not sign on to the settlement so it could "preserve its options" on recent waste spills it was investigating.
CLEAN, a group of Missouri farmers and environmentalists that first filed the lawsuit against Premium Standard, was not completely satisfied with the agreement. But members said they felt compelled to sign it or risk being shut out of the process.
Currently, millions of gallons of hog waste, flushed from barns, are stored in lagoons at the Kansas City-based company's 21 large-scale farms in five Missouri counties. From there the wastewater is pumped and sprayed onto farm fields as fertilizer.
Under the agreement, Premium Standard must develop and install new technologies designed to reduce the amount of hog effluent, reduce the risk of spills, treat water at the farms and convert some of the waste into marketable products. The company must reduce nutrients produced from its waste handling system by half.
"We are committed to producing consistent high quality pork in an environmentally sustainable system," said David Townsend, vice president of environmental affairs for Premium Standard.
Townsend said the company already was developing new technologies under a 1999 consent decree with the state.
The EPA estimates the technologies -- which the Justice Department said had never been used at a large-scale hog farm -- could cost up to $50 million.
"This settlement will put in place new technologies and pollution prevention advances to ensure compliance with environmental laws and to protect the air and water for the surrounding communities," Sylvia Lawrence, EPA's acting assistance administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, said in a news release.
But CLEAN secretary Rolf Christen said the fine was inadequate and that people who live near the company's farms would be "exposed to the stench" for years as Premium Standard finishes developing new technologies.